What Are Your Norman Rockwell Feelings?


The Stranger/Slog, I love you, but I wouldn't be talking about other people's "Utter pointlessness" if I were you.

As for Norman Rockwell: my parents had a big coffee table book of his paintings when I was growing up, and I loved it, mostly because of all the details in his paintings.

And classifying him as a propagandist is the worst kind of 1980's undergraduate drivel.
I choose option 6: "This poll is everything annoying about The Stranger"

Rockwell had amazingly-developed skill (more skill than most of us have at anything) and put it to a use that he apparently thought appropriate, and that kept himself and his family in reasonable comfort. He is one of the best-know artists (or illustrators) in American history, and has probably had a greater impact on American culture than most people will ever have.

I don't have to think that he was a genius or that his work was full of under-appreciated "cleverness" to acknowledge that this is true. I don't even have to particularly like his work.

Now back to our regularly-scheduled sneering.
Lots of people think of Norman Rockwell as fluff.

I tend to think of his Civil Rights paintings.


Seriously, take a look at "Southern Justice" and see if your opinion of him doesn't shift.
Rockwell could be slyly (perhaps unconsciously) homoerotic.

(From the delightful "Envisioning the American Dream.")
I have a completely unironic and wholehearted admiration for Norman Rockwell. He was modest about his own achievements throughout his life, and always considered himself a "mere illustrator" and not an artist. But his use of narrative detail puts him easily into a class with the masters of social observation, Brueghel and Hogarth.

Yes, his paintings are explicitly sentimental, and buy unironically into values considered "corny" by revolutionaries past and present. I don't care. The man was a friggin' genius.
Norman Rockwell: Painter of LightTM
Rockwell had an eye and a genius far, far above any hack Hallmark Greeting Card illustrator, and you should be ashamed @6 for implying otherwise.

While we remember Rockwell for the squeaky-clean images from a sanitized past that did not really exist, don't forget a couple of his more powerful works on race and racism in that time:
The man's art is fascinating glimpse at the world my grandparents lived in. If you hate him, it's because you hate the period of American culture he reflected.
This is great - I love hearing our thoughts about him. Reviewing a book everyone's reviewing? This is better.
Glad to see that Rockwell hate is played out. The man was a great illustrator who decided there was more value to being an artist, and it's that he is called an artist and not an illustrator that enrages jaded hearts everywhere. There's a lot of arbitrary snobbishness out there.
@Dr Awesome: a sanitized past that did not really exist

The prosperous small town post-war liberal America that Rockwell focused his art on did in fact exist. Drive through the decaying, abandoned downtown business district of just about any small town in Washington, and you'll see what remains of it.
Sure, the mirror he held up was an idealized one, but the skills he had, are almost a lost art now. Today, what he did is replaced by a $50 stock photo.

The "painter of light" crack was funny, but Rockwell's worst painting is an order of magnitude better than Kinkade's best. Not to mention, he never turned into a vicious alcoholic huckster who ran a nasty little shitty art empire.
@7: the illustration Dr. Awesome links to, I've seen that image 100 times and it has never failed to move me, at times to tears. It's like the poster of the photo of the man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. The fact that the marshall's heads are out of the frame, that was simply a brilliant decision. That the little girl has stepped forward, uncowed, towards the front edge of the protective square... damn. That we see it from the point-of-view of the tomato thrower -- that's subversive. All-in-all I call that not just propaganda, but really high-end, excellent propaganda. I don't see any reason to draw a distinction between that category and art.
I have to assume that whoever called Rockwell "pointless" was unfamiliar with his actual body of work. They were probably just thinking of Coke ads and what Republicans mean when they talk about "Norman Rockwell's America."

@7 links to the painting that *actually* illustrates Norman Rockwell's America, and it's as powerful today as it was in 1964. See also "Murder in Mississippi" and "Uneasy Christmas in the Birthplace of Christ".

Nobody who actually knows anything about Rockwell would call him pointless.
Dude, like they totally ripped off that cover idea from Alison Bechdel.
My favorite Rockwell: File:RosieTheRiveter.jpg">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RosieT…
Hm, looks like Slog munged that link. Anyway, Rockwell's "Rosie the Riveter" is marvelously lively and strong. It's a more vital and human image than the iconic "We Can Do It" poster by J. Howard Miller.
What a great conversation!
I've never understood the Rockwell hate, his technical skill is undeniable, and some of his work is very powerful. There's a piece at a boxing ring that has always stuck with me. The tension and violence in the ring is reflected in the body of the woman in the foreground. She is all in white, and stands out like a flame in the dark. He used the same contrast and limited color palette in his very famous painting about Brown vs the board of education.
He was a wonderful commercial artist, and I think he sold himself short as a fine artist. Maybe because fine art in the mid 20th century was in such a different place esthetically from what he did.
The skinny kid w/ the pipe? He's too "far out" for me.

It's like SLOG ran out of things to hate, so now they have to go to rummage sales to find old stuff that people forgot about.

@20 Speaking of old stuff, that people try to forget about, that most of Slog hates...
My Norman Rockwell feelings: he's always highly skilled, although I sometimes find his aggressive hokiness a bit grating, like when a Spielberg movie goes wrong. But when he's on target he can be fantastic, and some of his best work was really vivid depictions of homespun liberal progressivism... that unfortunately seems to go right over the heads of the conservatives who want to live in "Rockwell's America."
I saw the Norman Rockwell Show at Tacoma Art Museum a few years ago. I found it awesome. It's truly an exhibition on an America of early to mid-20th century. Very nostalgic. I think him an extraordinary artist. I read a positive review of Solomon's biography of Rockwell a few weeks ago. I shall read it.

Also, read two reviews of Lucien Freud, the British portrait artist. He sounds like a real "piece of work". I may read his bio as well.
@Fuckwit- Bailo, we're still waiting for you to catalog all the alleged threats you receive on Slog. Unless they exist only in your ADHD-fevered imagination...
Just like @1, my parents had the big book of his work, and I loved it when I was a kid.
@22 Interesting side note on conservatives using Rockwell as a blueprint for society: Rockwell's friend and chief inspiration was J.C. Leyendecker, a gay man who lived with his partner for almost 40 years. Rockwell said, "I began working for ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ in 1916 and Leyendecker was my god. I actually used to, unbeknownst to him, follow him down the streets of New Rochelle, just to be close to him." They were friends for over 25 years, so Rockwell had to know about Leyendecker's relationship.

It just goes to show that perhaps Rockwell wasn't the social conservative that right wingers try to claim.
When I see a Norman Rockwell or Norman Rockwell-style piece, I get angry (or annoyed). This has nothing to do with the actual man, his intent, his skill, etc. I grew up associating his work with super conservative values, Christianity, racism, sexism, McCarthyism, football, small towns... His work became an embodiment of the hypocritical, cherry-picking conservative assholes that I hated as a kid and still despise. It's unfortunate that I've let a bunch of assholes, who have virtually nothing to do with the man or his ideas, subvert his intent. I could try to reason myself out of these feelings, but I'm also just not that in to his style. Modernism, surrealism, constructivism- I like looking at those. Rockwell just doesn't do anything for me, AND it reminds me of a bunch of assholes, so I chose (5). Not my sentiments exactly, but the option that most approximates my feelings.
I have a dear friend who has been a musician his entire life. I was passing an antique store and saw several Rockwell plates with musical themes. I bought several and sent them to him on his birthday. He treasures those.
I feel it is my duty to add that I was the one who definitely could let Norman Rockwell just sit there, and I tried to, but he kept rearing his pretty head.
Rockwell haters are sad.
@26—thanks for that! I had no idea. Rockwell's Wikipedia page all but sweeps the Leyendecker connection under the rug.

Leyendecker links:




The Haggin Museum in Stockton, CA "houses the largest museum collection of original art works" by Leyendecker.

And Jen Graves posted this re: Romney in July 2012.
@26: Interesting you should mention Rockwell's friendship with Leyendecker. There was an article in a recent Smithsonian magazine that made a convincing case for Rockwell being a closeted gay man. Though it certainly seems that if it's true, he was one of those who never came to terms with it. But certainly it's undeniable his marriages were troubled and lacked intimacy, his paintings show a huge lack of adult man-woman romantic moments, and that he was most comfortable in all-male company throughout his life.
For even more information/ammunition for this verbal exchange, check out the other book about Rockwell that just came out this month as well: "Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell's America" , the work Kirkus Review calls " a fresh, well-researched study of artist Norman Rockwell's treatment of race." Yes, treatment of race.
There's a Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, MA (or Sturbridge, or whatever) that's a real gem. The volume and originality of his work is amazing. He was an American original; who else can you consider in his niche?
And, a year or so ago, the Tacoma art museum had a show of his work, inclkuding a display of every one of his Saturday Evening Posdt covers, which numbered like 400 or more. This guy was incredibly focused and productive over his career.